Methodist Conference 2013 considers child maintenance

I am very grateful to Dr C M Davies, Department of Mathematics, Royal Holloway University of London for drawing my attention to this important development.

The Methodist Conference is the body that agrees policy for the Methodist Church. It meets annually and this year’s Conference was held from 4 – 11 July at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. The agenda papers, this year, include the following important statement concerning separated families:

Memorial2 M30 – Child support payments

The Reading and Silchester (26/13) Circuit Meeting (Present: 48; Voting 47 for, 0 against) supports the Government belief that children in separated families do better if both parents continue to be involved in their lives; it acknowledges and welcomes the important steps the Government is taking to encourage this. However, the Circuit records their concern that some aspects of Government legislation are causing severe financial difficulties for non-resident parents, especially those on a low income. The Circuit request that the Methodist Church pass on this concern and request the Government to rectify the errors in the child support maintenance calculation regulations to ensure that the statutory maintenance liabilities are fair and affordable to ensure that welfare provision for both parents after separation is appropriate, in accordance with Article 34.3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The following reply was agreed by the Conference on 11 July 2013:

The Conference thanks the Reading and Silchester Circuit Meeting for its memorial.

Under current arrangements, parents who are separated can arrange, or be required to arrange, financial contributions, often through the Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA calculates the amounts to be paid by the non-resident parent to support their children. As this memorial highlights, the interaction between the benefits system and maintenance payments often leaves low-income non-resident parents with insufficient money to subsist.

Non-resident parents should contribute financially to their children’s upbringing, but it is clear that deductions which leave a parent with too little to live on are not in the interests of the children. Such circumstances damage children’s ongoing relationship with their parents as well as the parent themselves. The Conference has previously supported the concept of minimum income standards, a calculation of what a person or family needs to live, which should be the basis of decisions made about benefits or the level of income needed after deductions (including child support payments).

The Conference therefore directs that appropriate representation be made to write to the government raising the concerns outlined in the memorial, and reaffirms its commitment to promoting the concept of minimum income standards.

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